Toad, with no one to check his statements or to criticize in an unfriendly spirit, rather let himself go. Indeed, much that he related belonged more properly to the category of what-might-have-happened-had-I-only-thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of-ten-minutes-afterwards. Those are always the best and raciest adventures; and why should they not be truly ours, as much as the somewhat inadequate things that really come off?
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Life can be so contradictory at times. When I was working I used to wake up and think, I hope there are no fights in the playground today I am just not in the mood! Today as I set off to Audley End in the sun, I hoped the coots would put on a good show of strength and try to fight each other and every other bird on the lake, in other words I hoped their behaviour would be as normal as possible!
I set up in a boggy area right next to the edge of one of the lakes and fiddled with settings. My solitude was soon disrupted by barking dogs and screaming children. I’d forgotten it was still the Easter Holidays. As the sun fixed itself on my back and blotting out the noise, I began looking more closely at the little patch of lakeside around me! I could see movement in the water and there, right in front of me were about ten common toads (Bufo bufo) swimming backwards and forwards. One or two popped their heads above the water to check me out and grab some air, but most of them swam away or popped under the water very quickly if I moved my lens. I was transported back to ‘Wind in the Willows’ a favourite children’s book I have never forgotten. I knew there was little chance of seeing Ratty but meeting toad was an unusual opportunity! Sitting as still as I could on a three legged stool that was gradually sinking into the mud, I became aware of something moving behind me. As I turned I could see one cheeky duck. She had crept up behind me in the hope of finding a morsel or two. I had a conversation with her and explained I had no seed. She looked at me with contempt in her eyes and waddled off. Another pretty brown duck decided the time was right for a bath and I just managed to catch the end of her ablutions as the droplets of water cascaded around her head.
Suddenly, I could hear coots squawking but yet again I was too late, the fight was over almost before it began. I just managed to catch one angry bird as it chased another away.
Some of the toads started to get used to my presence. Their absorption in mating also helped to deter them from swimming away so I began to take some pictures. As I was doing so I could hear a faint movement in the reeds and there, as bold as brass a much larger and fatter toad was making his way down to the water’s edge, caring not a hoot about my presence. I watched him edge around the water and make his way over dead reeds until he settled for a quiet doze right out of the range of my lens.
I was so pleased to capture the toads as they came up for air and I was amazed that one of them had eggs on her back. Despite being warty and quite unattractive creatures they swam with such grace across the water, only stopping to feel the sun on their faces and to smooch a little under the cover of the reeds.
As I headed home I was a bit disappointed, not to have captured a good fight between the birds, but nevertheless I was delighted to have had an opportunity to sit and watch the intimate world of the common toad! One never knows exactly what a day by the lake may bring, but sitting quietly by the water, with a camera at the ready always provides an opportunity to see and shoot something you have never seen before!